The Springfield Falcons and Bridgeport Sound Tigers were first and second, respectively, in the Northeast Division coming into tonight's game. The early season battle for first place went through 65 minutes of action with the score knotted 2 - 2. After the first overtime of the season came the first shootout of the campaign.
In a game so well played by both sides, this purist was disappointed that the final result came down to the skills competition also known as the shootout. A Falcons win and I might have been content for the shootout to see another day. Unfortunately however, David Ullstrom went top cheese on Paul Dainton in the seventh round, giving the Bridgeport Sound Tigers the extra point in the 3 - 2 shootout final at the MassMutual Center in Springfield.
The first period, while scoreless, was anything but dull. Paul Dainton, in his first action of the season, held the Sound Tigers at bay in the early going.
Unlike Friday night's penalty marred opening stanza in Providence, this one only saw four minors whistled by referee Geoff Miller. The fourth was an interference call on Andrew Joudrey of Springfield. Once he returned to the ice, the Birds were energized and stormed Bridgeport's goalie, Kevin Poulin.
Poulin withstood a furious blitz in the final three minutes of the period. Prime suspects on Poulin's hit list were Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, both of whom were robbed at point blank range.
In the final minute, John Moore picked up a loose puck in the Bridgeport zone and walked in all by himself. Moore got a little too deep and had his effort hit the outside of the cage. This turned out to be a very good period for the Falcons.
In an action packed middle stanza, both clubs lit the lamp twice and yes, we have had a Greg Amadio sighting. For Falcons fans who like the physical side of the game, this was a good thing. For Sean Backman of the Sound Tigers, not so much.
Cam Atkinson opened the scoring when he picked up the biscuit in the neutral zone and cut over the blueline, zeroing in on Poulin. Cam let fly from the high slot and the Bridgeport netminder never had a chance. Andrew Joudrey and David Savard got the play going and for the fifth straight game, the Falcons scored the first goal of the game.
The Sound Tigers found the back of the net twice within 2:20 to take a brief 2 - 1 lead on goals by Brandon DeFazio and Nino Niederreiter.
Late in the middle period, Cody Goloubef was at the blueline and let a knuckler go towards Poulin. As the puck dipped, Tomas Kubalik got a piece of it to bring the Birds back even at 2 - 2.
That set the stage for Amadio, who leveled Backman at 17:36. Backman sold the hit as if he'd been beheaded. Referee Miller bought it, and issued Amadio a triple minor - two for the original elbow and a double for roughing. "Ammo" went predictably crazy, tossing his helmet and gloves as he walked down the tunnel to the locker room.
The third period was one of the best periods of hockey I've seen at The Nest in a long, long time.
End to end, pillar to post. A barnburner. Kitty bar the door stuff. This was fun.
Paul Dainton stood tall. Nick Holden, Cody Goloubef and Tim Erixon were terrific. Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, Tomas Kubalik and JAM all had legitimate scoring chances.
Joudrey dropped a sweet no look pass to Goloubef with just three seconds remaining in regulation. The shot just missed and for the first time this season, the Falcons went to OT, followed by the shootout.
Tonight's Three Stars:
1. Paul Dainton
2. Kevin Poulin
3. David Ullman
The Falcons will be back in action on Sunday afternoon at The Nest when the Portland Pirates come to town. Faceoff time is set for 3PM.